State College Spikes

Jackson powers State College past Mahoning Valley

The State College Spikes’ Danny Hudzina tags out Mahoning Valley’s Gabriel Mejia as he tries to steal third base during Saturday’s game.
The State College Spikes’ Danny Hudzina tags out Mahoning Valley’s Gabriel Mejia as he tries to steal third base during Saturday’s game. adrey@centredaily.com

Same spot, same result — and Vince Jackson couldn’t have been happier.

Jackson, a 14th-round selection in this year’s draft out of Tennessee, showcased his pop and wheels with a pair of triples in State College’s 4-1 win over Mahoning Valley on Saturday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

“I’ll be honest, I think a lot of people missed on him being available in the 14th round,” Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “He’s got some upside. Strong, he can get going when his legs start to move for a big fella ... and that power is going to come around.”

The Scrappers (3-13) suffered their fourth consecutive loss, while the Spikes (12-4) have now won 10 of their past 11 in the best start to a season in franchise history.

And Jackson can be thanked for their most recent triumph.

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound left fielder was hitless in four at-bats on Friday, but made up for it in a sizable way.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Jackson led off the frame by smoking one to the right-center wall and legging it out for a three-bagger. He later scored the game’s first run on a two-out throwing error by Mahoning Valley second baseman Alexis Pantoja.

The next inning, Jackson had a little deja vu.

The Georgia native jolted one to the right-center warning track again, scoring Anthony Ray and Tommy Edman and giving the Spikes a three-run lead that would be enough to see them through.

Scoring after the first triple and driving in a couple on the second, Jackson was pleased with his performance Saturday night.

“It was a blessing,” Jackson said. “I was really happy ... and glad we won. We’re really hot right now, and that makes everything better when you’re winning.”

Focal points

Kil’in it: In his first-ever minor league start, John Kilichowski impressed. The 11th-round selection out of Vanderbilt in last month’s draft tossed three innings, allowing two hits and no runs while striking out five.

Rodriguez said Kilichowski is a starter in his rotation and the plan is to build him up in terms of pitch count and innings.

And on Saturday, the manager liked what he saw.

“He’s got stuff. He’s got real good stuff,” Rodriguez said. “He’s going to be tough to hit.”

Swiper no swiping: Kilichowski found himself in a precarious spot early on. In the top of the first, Mahoning Valley leadoff man and speedster Gabriel Mejia slapped a liner up the middle and turned on the jets to reach second for a double.

However, Kilichowski struck out the next hitter, and then caught Mejia stealing. The 20-year-old bolted for third base, but Kilichowski stepped off the rubber and threw him out.

The left-hander then tallied another strikeout to finish off the frame.

In relief: After fine production through three innings, Kilichowski handed the ball over to left-hander Dewin Perez in the fourth, and there wasn’t a let-up.

Perez (2-1) earned the win, throwing five innings, striking out five and surrendering only two hits.

After Perez loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the ninth, Brady Bowen came on, navigated the situation with only one run charged to Perez, and recorded his first save of the year.

“He’s a closer-type, he and Eric Carter,” Rodriguez said of Bowen. “And that’s great to have.”

Food for thought

Turning two: The Spikes have doubled up opponents quite a bit this season. With a 6-4-3 double play in the sixth inning, State College has rolled two 12 times through 16 games.

Recent output: Mejia isn’t an overpowering hitter by any means, but he’s tagged the Spikes more than once this series. After having only one multihit performance in 11 games entering Friday, Mejia has six combined hits against State College the past two nights. The switch hitter went 3 for 5 on Friday, and 3 for 3 on Saturday with a double and two singles.

On deck

Mahoning Valley: The Scrappers will wrap up the three-game series with State College at 6:05 p.m. Sunday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Mahoning Valley sends Triston McKenzie (1-1) out to the hill, looking to continue his hot start. McKenzie boasts a 0.54 ERA and has 19 strikeouts to only two walks through three starts.

State College: Dailyn Martinez (2-1) was scheduled to start, but was called up to Single-A Peoria on Saturday afternoon. It has not been announced who will start in his place. The 23-year-old right-hander owned a 0.96 ERA with 17 strikeouts to three walks in three outings. Martinez hadn’t allowed an earned run his last two starts.

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